Friday, May 30, 2008

A Letter to my puppy


If you could ever imagine how much you’ve impacted my life, you’d be amazed. I received you a year ago, and I couldn’t have been happier. You and I started off a little slow, I think, but then I had so many expectations and I was terrified of upsetting you, or making you uncomfortable or not handling you properly. There were so many unknowns for me this time last year.

The day started and we had a fantastic breakfast. Just a side note, because you were so good during obedience and never once went for the food distractions. But that bacon at the school was the best bacon I have ever tasted. But you were such a perfect puppy and you were not easily distracted. We learned all about high collar corrections that day, and I think, correct me if I’m wrong somebody, but I think that was the day that we learned how to make turns with Juno. But you can only imagine how hard it was to pay attention to our lessons. On everyone’s mind were the dogs. Dogs dogs dogs. We had had interviews in the days before asking us what kind of dogs we would prefer, and I told them I think I wanted a female black lab who was not overly hard to control, but gave me enough of a challenge to be fun. However, I knew that the instructors knew best.

I would also like to add that those first few mornings were really nice. We didn’t have to do this, but for some reason, we would all wake up and meet in the day room before breakfast. It was kinda fun, and it gave us a chance to socialize. This morning was no different, though nerves were running high, and we were just so excited.

So, we get to lunch time. The instructors, like always, were teasing us and feeding us all kinds of stories about why we couldn’t have our dogs today. Most of me didn’t believe them, but part of me was terrified. That day at lunch, Tiff, Zack and I all stood outside hugging each other and chatting nervously. Then we went in and a bunch of us messed around on the piano for a bit. Hey Tiff, do you remember the beautiful song you created about the heroism of Stuffy with the missing ear? It was very touching. Anyway, I’m on the couch between Tiff and Kurt. We had a lecture before the dreaded time came, but I don’t remember who gave it or what it was about. My mind was racing at this point. Then Pete, the class supervisor came forward and talked to us, telling us about the rules with our dogs and how we were supposed to conduct ourselves that evening. Then it was time. Marc, who I loved solely for his Australian accent came forward and announced our names, and the dogs we were going to receive. ”Zack, you will be receiving a male yellow lab named Alfred. Curtis, you will be receiving a male yellow lab named Truman. Jess, you will be receiving a female yellow lab named Rita. Leah, you will be receiving a female black lab named Sicily. Tiffany, you will be receiving a female black lab named Santana…” at this point, I’m so excited. What an awesome name for a black dog. Santana would later be known as black magic guide dog. “Jim, you will be receiving a male black lab named Bradley. Rachel, you will be receiving a male yellow lab named Morgan. Barb…” everything slows right down. “You will be receiving a female black lab named” Yes! Amazing!! I got what I asked for! “Rosamae!” That name sounds so southern, but so gorgeous. I’m close to tears. I think I might have been squeezing Tiff’s hand the whole time. Not really sure. “Kurt, you will be receiving a male yellow lab named Ambrose.” That too is a pretty funky name. I came to learn later that that was one of the most successful litters in a long time. Five of those boys went on to be guide dogs. Alfred, Ambrose, Augie, Artimus and Avery. That’s one kick ass litter. “Neil” wait for it, this was good. First, let me say that Neil is this big, powerful man. Six foot some inches tall. He desperately wanted a poodle because he and his wife were both allergic. “You will be receiving a standard bred poodle named Kiwi.” The class erupted with cheers and laughter all at once. Kiwi! Awesome! “Toni, you will be receiving a German shepherd named Dawner.” It was really too bad Dawner had to be career changed the next Monday because he tried to bite the dog belonging to the director of training. “Julie, you will be receiving a female black lab named Helga.” We shouldn’t have laughed. I tried so hard not to laugh. I was more laughing at the fact that Julie and I, as room mates, were both going to have black labs. “Brandi, you will be receiving a female yellow lab named Tanayah.” Sadly, Brandi never got to graduate with Tanayah, because she injured her eye halfway through the program and had to be sent home for surgery. “J, you will be receiving a male black lab named Banker. And finally Gary, you will be receiving Norwalk.”

We all have been told our dogs’ names now. Now it was time to wait. I called Steve and Carin as soon as I could. I’m almost in tears I’m so excited. I had seen dog day before when I was in the continued assessment class, I hid in the library. It was pretty cool for me even then, but now… now it was my own dog… I think I might have babbled at Carin for awhile, and then, a knock at my door… for Julie. Aaaah, what a disappointment. But I was so happy for Julie. Zack came by and said hi to me, and he had Alfred in toe. I thought, “What a perfect name for Zack’s dog.” And then Julie and Helga were in the room. Julie was crying. At first I thought it was because she was so overwhelmed by the experience. I came to find out later that it was because she hated her dog’s name. I thought that was a little selfish, I mean, come on! It’s a name! She would grow to love it eventually and sing German polka music to Helga. And then, Stacy and Jessica knocked on my door. “Hey Barb,” says Stacy, “Remember that leash we gave you at the beginning of the week?” “Yeah, why?” You’re getting a dog on the end of it.” That did it for me. I was just overwhelmed by the emotions and thoughts of finally having a guide dog after all these years. Jessica came in and got me. We walked into the music room, and Stacy’s dog Kay-leigh was in her crate. I remember talking to Kay-leigh as if she understood me and saying “I’m getting a guide puppy like you. I can’t believe it.” I was shaking I was so nervous. And then, there you were. You were panting a little, but otherwise perfect and Jessica held the leash. “Meet Rosamae. She’s pure black, except for a little spot on her nose that sort of looks like a zipper. She loves her work, and is one very loyal dog. I think she’s great for you.” I was so happy I didn’t even have the words to describe my emotions. I sat there and petted your head and scratched your ears a lot, and then Jessica unclipped her leash, and I attached mine. IT felt like a right of passage. Stacy was right; there was a dog, at the end of MY leash!!! I loved that leash since the moment I got it. Then Jessica took us back to my room, and I sat on the floor and talked and sang to you, while I listened to Julie crying and Helga wining.

Dad called, and I had to get you to sit at my feet and be quiet while I talked to him. You kept trying to be all wiggly and stuff. Eventually, Jessica brought me out into the hall so I could do heeling practice. As I said, you were perfect. You didn’t sniff, didn’t get distracted by the big bowl of dog food that Stacy was shaking. Not even Kay-leigh made you look. You were completely devoted to me. But I still was unsure, because you didn’t seem very excited or anything. You were just quiet. After we walked up and down the hall a few times, I fed you for the first time. You just dove, head first into the bowl. This showed me that I would have to teach you to wait until I gave the command. You were such a fast learner.

When I tried to relieve you, it was a challenge. I don’t think you actually did anything during that relieving. But you were amazing, and I didn’t even care. I was just so glad to have you with me. We had dinner, and there were three humans and three doggies at the table. It was a bit chaotic, but we managed. That night, a bunch of us convened in the music room with our dogs, and Zack and I played guitar. We did that a lot in the first couple weeks. It was great. I remember this one weird woman who was in the continued assessment class walking in, and even though all the dogs were fast asleep, you all jumped up at the same time and barked in unison. It was weird. We all quieted you, but for whatever reason, none of you liked this woman at all.

That night, Julie and I lie awake in our beds for so long just reaching down and petting you and Helga, and talking about what wonderful dogs you guys were going to be, and how excited we were and how much we looked forward to everything.

Rosamae, you are an amazing dog. You have been a huge blessing to me, and I couldn’t be happier with you. Granted, sometimes you frustrate me beyond belief, you love to test Mummy and push her to her limits from time to time, but I don’t know what I’d do without you by my side. You and I have had some interesting times together. Do you remember Terri and Jesse from the summer and how we always would spend time with them and their cats and dogs? Do you remember Joey, and how much you loved him? Do you remember the first time you met my boyfriend at the time and what you did to him when you thought he was trying to attack me? I wonder if you ever think of the first time I brought you to Kingston, how stressed you were, and how you had diarrhea all over the floor at the high school during Cam’s graduation night. And Cam, your favourite person in the entire world. He’s coming home soon, and I bet you’ll be so happy to see him. He loves you too, you know. He always asks me how you’re doing. And what about the cats at Mom’s house? I know what you think of Buckwheat. It’s too bad he doesn’t like to play, because he thinks you’re going to hurt him. I know you aren’t, Rosamae. You just want to have fun right? Do you remember that other girl with the guide dog who used to come over to my apartment in the fall? I know you liked that dog, she was adorable.

If people heard all the crazy nicknames I have for you; Mayzers, Miss Mae, Squeaker Doo and any other random form of Doo, and my personal favourite, Rosamae MacSniffy Nose, I’m sure they’d all laugh at me. I wonder what they’d think if they knew that your favourite band, for some reason unknown to me is Led Zeppelin, or that you love being scratched right above your tail, or that every time you see a man you get right on your back and show everyone your special places. But in that same instance, if you feel like someone is going to do harm to me, I know you are very defensive and protective of me. I sometimes wonder how you can know when I’m in the possibility of danger. I think you can read my thoughts. I don’t know how you do it, but sometimes I really believe we communicate telepathicly.

Rosamae, you’re beautiful, hard working, strong, intelligent, and just perfect for me. I’m very happy with the match they made between you and me. We’re gonna go out with Chuck today, so do me a favour and be a good girl for Mummy ok? I know you will be. You usually are. And yes, Mommy will play with you and your bone now. You can calm down.


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